Changing Observance of Traditional Jewish Religious Practices: A Study of Generations

dc.contributor.advisorHoffsommer, Harold C.
dc.contributor.authorGreenberg, Meyer
dc.contributor.publisherDigital Repository at the University of Maryland
dc.contributor.publisherUniversity of Maryland (College Park, Md)
dc.description.abstractChanges in the observance of traditional religious practices among Jewish families during the course of three generations are the subject of t his paper. The religious practices studied are those related to the cycle of the year--the Sabbath and holy days--and kashruth (the dietary laws). The population is a group of 180 families, chiefly from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., with children in the freshman class at the University of Maryland in the spring of 1949. The first generation, the grandparents, are in the main immigrants to the United States from Eastern Europe during the years of mass immigration which ended shortly after World War I. The second generation are the parents, most of them American born, while the third generation consists of freshmen at the University. For the earlier generations the interaction with the American environment is analyzed in terms of acculturation and social mobility. In the third generation attention is focused on changes in religious practice from the time the student was a child and under parental control, through his last year in high school, and then into the latter part of hi s first year at college. Information on the background of students and parents and on their religious observance was obtained by means of a questionnaire. This was followed by an interview to learn the circumstances surrounding changes in the student's observance. It was found that the parents belong almost entirely to the middle class and are engaged in business or the professions. The student group, of whom two-thirds are male, does not differ appreciably from the general student body either in scholastic aptitude or in grades. Upon analysis, the combinations of religious practices observed by the individuals were found to fall into seven repeated patterns or types. This classification system was used to compare the observance of the different groups into which the sample was divided. The relatively sharpest break with tradition occurred in the immigrant generation. The second generation continued to move in the same direction. The third generation departed even further from tradition, especially when under the influence of the college environment, but the rate of change appears to have slowed down. The process of discarding ritual practices has been a selective one. Observances which are frequent and involve economic sacrifice, such as the Sabbath and holidays, have been the first to be dropped. Others such as formal daily prayer and kashruth outside the home have been abandoned because of inconvenience and because they differ widely from accepted social norms. A minimum observance level seems to have been reached in the evolution of Jewish religious life. Attending synagogue and fasting on the High Holydays and participating in a Passover Seder are still observed by the overwhelming majority of American Jews. The lighting of Sabbath candles is widespread, and kashruth in the home is kept by a substantial number, though only a very small proportion of the students observe the dietary laws. The subjects of the study were also classified according to their self-identification with one of the three branches of Judaism--Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. It was found that while the first generation were overwhelmingly Orthodox, the members of the second and third generations have been moving increasingly into the Conservative and, to a lesser degree, the Reform groups. The Orthodox Jews indicate greater average observance than the Conservative, who in turn tend to observe somewhat more than the Reform. However, the observance of all three groups falls far below the standards set by the movements officially. In the student generation, the differences between the groups are further narrowed, and there appears a marked tendency toward similarity in observance patterns. Future studies are needed to analyze the continuing development and relative strength of the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform groups. It would also be worthwhile to learn whether the students here studied at what is thought to be the lowest point of their religious observance will modify their practices when they are married and have families.en_US
dc.identifier.otherILLiad # 1247541
dc.titleChanging Observance of Traditional Jewish Religious Practices: A Study of Generationsen_US


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